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5 Things You Didn't Know About Charles Lindbergh

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Charles Lindbergh was born 109 years ago today. In honor of the famed aviator’s birthday, let’s hop onto five things you might not know about The Lone Eagle.

1. He Was Time’s First Man of the Year

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After Lindbergh made his celebrated transatlantic flight in May 1927, he found his picture splashed on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in the country. Well, almost every magazine. Time made the curious decision not to run with Lindbergh as its cover subject for the next edition, a choice that editors quickly regretted.

By the end of the year, though, the same editors struck on a clever way to rectify their omission and also move some magazines. When faced with a slow news week, they decided to devote an entire issue to Lindbergh’s influential flight. The magazine slapped a portrait of Lindy on its cover and dubbed him “Man of the Year.”

Although the article began a beloved tradition for Time’s readers, it reads a little awkwardly now. The article begins by listing Lindbergh’s height, age, eye color, cheek color (pink, in case you were wondering), and foot size. (“Large. When he arrived at the Embassy in France no shoes big enough were handy.”) The article then lists Lindbergh’s habits: “Smokes not; drinks not. Does not gamble. Eats a thorough-going breakfast. Prefers light luncheon and dinner when permitted. Avoids rich dishes. Likes sweets.” The piece an analysis of his handwriting, which showed “Superiority, intellectualism, cerebration, idealism, even mysticism.”

2. He Helped Invent an Artificial Heart

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Lindbergh gained international renown for his transatlantic flight, but most people aren’t quite as familiar with the contribution he made to medical science. Lindbergh became keenly interested in cardiology when his sister-in-law was fighting against what proved to be fatal mitral stenosis in 1930, and he wondered why it was impossible to surgically fix a damaged heart.

As Lindbergh’s interest in heart surgery grew, he ended up working with Dr. Alexis Carrel at New York’s Rockefeller Institute on a system to keep organs alive outside of the body by circulating nutrient-rich fluids through them. Carrel wasn’t some quack who wanted to capitalize on Lindbergh’s fame, either; at that point in his career the doctor had already won a Nobel Prize for his work on organ transplants.

Lindbergh lent his unique mechanical acumen to his research with Carrel, and the pilot eventually perfected a glass perfusion pump that could maintain a heart in a sterile environment. The breakthrough helped other scientists eventually create the first artificial heart. Lindbergh and Carrel even coauthored the 1938 medical text The Culture of Organs, which included an early description of how an artificial heart would work.

3. He Only Drew a Steady Paycheck Once

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While Lindbergh enjoyed early success as a pilot and became a reserve airman for the Army, a 1974 New York Times profile by Alden Whitman noted that the aviator only held down one “paycheck job” over the course of his life. Lindbergh worked on the side as an aviation instructor and a circus stunt flier for fairs as a young pilot, but the only steady gig he ever held was a post as chief pilot on a mail run between St. Louis and Chicago that he started in 1926.

According to Lindbergh, it was on one of these runs for the Robertson Aircraft Company that he had the epiphany that a nonstop flight from New York to Paris was possible. Upon returning to St. Louis after the run, Lindbergh started scaring up funding for his historic trip. A group of St. Louis businessmen staked him for $15,000, which was part of the reason Lindbergh dubbed his plane The Spirit of St. Louis. The less-exciting working name of the plane had been “the Ryan NYP,” which reflected the plane’s maker (Ryan Airlines) and its objective (New York to Paris).

4. He Became a Big Advocate for Conservation

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Later in his life Lindbergh turned his attention from aviation and cardiology to conservation. The same Whitman article from the Times includes a quote on Lindbergh’s 1964 realization that he should devote his energies to conservation. On a trip to Africa, Lindbergh said, “Lying under an acacia tree with the sounds of the dawn around me. I realized more clearly the facts that man should never overlook: that the construction of an airplane for instance, is simple when compared to the evolutionary achievement of a bird; that airplanes depend on advanced civilization, and that where civilization is most advanced few birds exist. I realized that if I had to choose I would rather have birds than airplanes."

Lindbergh spent the rest of his life vigorously campaigning for various conservationist causes. In 1968 he made his first public speech in 27 years to implore the Alaska Legislature to consider conservation legislation. He made trips to the Philippines to work with President Ferdinand Marcos to establish a sanctuary for the tamaraw, an endangered hoofed mammal.

5. He Had a Secret German Family

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It’s anyone’s guess how one of the world’s most famous people pulled it off – it probably didn’t hurt that Lindbergh was famously camera-shy in his later years – but Lindbergh managed to father an entire secret family in Germany during the 1950s and 1960s.

Lindbergh met hat maker Brigitte Hesshaimer while visiting Germany in 1957, and the two began an affair that produced two sons and a daughter. Lindbergh would visit the family several times a year, but the children never knew that their father was the famous aviator. Instead, they thought he was an American writer named Careau Kent.

After his death, though, they found bundles and letters and photographs of Lindbergh and realized they were his children. Their mother confirmed their suspicions but asked that they not reveal their paternity until after her death. When she passed away in 2003 the Hesshaimer children finally told the media about their famous father. DNA tests confirmed their claims.

The story gets even wilder, though. According to the Hesshaimer children, Lindbergh was simultaneously having an affair with their mother’s sister, Marietta. These trysts allegedly produced two more sons, although a 2005 Telegraph story noted that Marietta Hesshaimer’s sons were remaining mum about their paternity out of respect for their mother’s wishes.

If there's someone you'd like to see profiled in a future edition of '5 Things You Didn't Know About...,' leave us a comment. You can read the previous installments here.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs, but there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams' mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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5 Things You Should Know About Robert Todd Lincoln
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Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's oldest son and the only Lincoln child to survive into adulthood. While he didn't make quite the mark on history that his father did, Robert Lincoln had a pretty interesting life himself. Let's take a look at five things you might not know about him:

1. He Was on Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Staff

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Part of Abraham Lincoln's mystique lies in his humble roots as a self-made man who found education where he could. His eldest son didn't have to go through quite as many trials and tribulations to do some learning, though. Robert left Springfield, Illinois, to attend boarding school at New Hampshire's elite Phillips Exeter Academy when he was a young man, and he later graduated from Harvard during his father's presidency.

After completing his undergrad degree, Robert stuck around Cambridge to go to Harvard Law School, but that arrangement didn't last very long. After studying law for just a few months, Lincoln received a commission as a captain in the army. Lincoln's assignment put him on Ulysses S. Grant's personal staff, so he didn't see much fighting. He did get a nice view of history, though; Lincoln was present as part of Grant's junior staff at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

After the war ended, Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and brother and wrapped up his legal studies.

2. The Booth Family Did Him a Favor

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In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across the platform, his back pressed to one of the train's cars.

This situation probably seemed harmless enough until the train started moving, which whipped Lincoln around and dropped him into the space between the platform and train, an incredibly dangerous place to be.

Lincoln probably would have been dead meat if a stranger hadn't yanked him out of the hole by his collar. That stranger? None other than Edwin Booth, one of the most celebrated actors of the 19th century and brother of eventual Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln immediately recognized the famous thespian "“ this was sort of like if George Clooney pulled you from a burning car today "“ and thanked him effusively. The actor had no idea whose life he had saved until he received a letter commending him for his bravery in saving the President's son a few months later.

3. He Had a Strange Knack for Being Near Assassinations

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Lee's surrender wasn't the only history Lincoln ended up witnessing, although things got a bit grislier for him after Appomattox. As he arrived back in Washington in April 1865 Lincoln's parents invited him to go see Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater with them. The young officer was so exhausted after his journey that he begged off so he could get a good night's sleep. That night, of course, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln's father, and Robert Todd was with the celebrated president when he passed away the next morning.

By 1881, Lincoln's political lineage and prominence as a lawyer qualified him for a national office, and he became Secretary of War under the newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. That July, Lincoln was scheduled to travel to Elberon, New Jersey, by train with the President, but the trip never took off. Before Lincoln and Garfield's train could leave the station, Charles Guiteau shot the Garfield, who died of complications from the wound two months later.

Oddly, that wasn't all for Lincoln, though. Two decades passed without a presidential assassination, but Lincoln's strange luck reared its head again in 1901. Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Although he arrived a bit late to the even, Lincoln was on his way to meet McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.

Following these three bits of bad luck Lincoln refused to attend any presidential functions. He dryly noted that there was "a certain fatality about the presidential function when I am present."

4. He Realized His Mom Was a Little Nutty

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Mary Todd Lincoln is fairly widely renowned today for being mentally ill, but it wasn't quite such an open secret when she was still alive. Robert, however, realized that his mother needed psychiatric help so she didn't become a danger to herself or an embarrassment to her family, so he had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1875 following a hearing that declared her insane.

Mary Todd was none too pleased about this plan. She not only snuck letters to her lawyer to help her escape from the institution, she also wrote newspaper editors in an effort to convince the public of her sanity. Mary Todd's ploy worked; at a second sanity hearing in 1876 she was declared sane and released from the Batavia, Illinois, sanatorium to which she'd been confined. However, by this point she'd been publicly humiliated and never really patched up her relationship with Robert before her death in 1882.

5. He Made Some Serious Dough on the Railroads

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Once he got his legal practice up and running, Lincoln found a particularly lucrative clientele in the booming railroad industry. He spent most of his career working as a corporate lawyer for various railroads and train-related companies; the only breaks were his four-year stint as Secretary of War under Garfield and successor Chester A. Arthur and a four-year hitch as a minister to Britain under President Benjamin Harrison.

One of Lincoln's major clients was the Pullman Palace Car Company, for which he served as general counsel. When founder George Pullman died in 1897, Lincoln became president of the company, and in 1911 he became chairman of the Pullman Company's board. His lofty position in one of the country's most lucrative companies made him a millionaire and enabled Lincoln to build a sprawling estate, Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont.

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